County Versus City in Longtime Landfill Dispute

Straining against a decade-long legal tug-of-war with Wake County, the town of Holly Springs, N.C., decided in January to ask the North Carolina Supreme Court to review a permit for a landfill that will be located within the town's limits.

The request for review, or writ of certiorari, is the latest move by the town against the county. The proposed South Wake Landfill has been hotly contested since the early 1990s. Permitting disputes in the courts have been driven by arguments of environmental discrimination and the idea that Holly Springs has been singled out by the county as a dumping ground. Currently, five active landfills and two inactive landfills are within the Holly Springs limits, and the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant and Waste Storage facility is five miles south of town.

“We decided to petition the Supreme Court of North Carolina to review the North Carolina Court of Appeals' decision, which affirmed the trial courts granting of the permit,” says John Schifano, Holly Springs commissioner and attorney for Residents Against the Landfill. “That's a convoluted way of saying we want the Supreme Court to review the decision.”

The county opted to construct the landfill in 1992 in what was then a rural, but primarily minority, section of Holly Springs. The Holly Springs population at the time was around 900 versus the 12,000 it is today. The population surge means the landfill literally will be in the town's backyard. But that wasn't the case when the county first decided to put it there.

“Situations change,” says Holly Springs Town Clerk Joni Powell. “What we're asking the Supreme Court is, can we agree to something in 1992 and change it in 2002? Can a town change its mind?”

For analysis of the case, see “Legal Lode” on page 26 of this issue.